“Routines are important, but only if you make them your own. Simply copying someone else’s routine probably won’t work.” — Jeff Goins

Although I’ve researched daily routines and habits often, I still find myself constantly coming across great ideas from other bloggers, marketers and entrepreneurs about how they manage their time and productivity.

Productivity and using time wisely is always on our minds at Buffer as we develop our social media management tools. In fact, “work smarter, not harder” is one of our 10 core values.

Here are six tips from bloggers who continually produce great content, based on their own routines.

Maria Popova: Write for yourself first

Writing is meant to move the heart, the mind, the soul – not the page-view meter.

Maria writes the incomparable blog Brain Pickings, which is full of timeless advice and insight from writers, philosophers and creative leaders.

Her advice comes from her experience in focusing on what intrigues and moves her:

I’m fortunate – biased, perhaps – in having always approached my writing as personal development rather than business development and always having written for this personal audience of one.

I completely agree with Maria’s insistence that every blogger needs to understand why they’re writing in the first place.

It’s fine to find gratification in the approval of others or in financial success or in any other extrinsic reward, but it’s toxic to make that approval or prestige the motive to write.

She also offers a short, simple piece of advice for anyone starting out: learn by doing.



Sarah Wilson: Work on the same piece over time

Sarah’s blog includes topics such as “my simple home,” “i quit sugar” and “bike love.” It’s full of great-looking photos and her posts include a mixture of recipes, thoughts, inspiration and research.

Sarah’s approach is to start drafts when the inspiration hits and work on them over time until they’re ready to be published:

I tend to bang out some ideas and clip links as I go and keep about 20 “on the boil” posts in my drafts folder which I add to, patchwork, fiddle with over time.

This means she always has plenty of ideas to keep going with when it’s time to get something ready to publish:

I’ll write some afresh, or I pull one that inspires me from my drafts and tidy it up.

I really like this approach, and I’ve noticed whenever I spend some time away from a draft and come back to it, it’s usually in better shape than I remember. Plus, this helps me to get past the blank page hurdle that all writers face.


leo babauta

Leo Babauta: Write every day

Leo Babauta writes (among other things) the blog zenhabits.

He has an incredible ethos for how he does business, and regularly shares his experiences of building and changing his habits over time.

His advice to writers and “non-writers” alike is to write something every day:

I started this blog in January 2007, and have written pretty much every day since then.

It was life-changing.

Leo shared a whole list of reasons why he recommends daily writing to everyone on his blog. Here are a couple that stood out to me:

Writing helps you reflect on your life and changes you’re making.

Writing clarifies your thinking.

This last one in particular makes sense if you’re hoping to improve:

Writing regularly makes you better at writing.



Jeff Goins: Change your routine to suit your life

Jeff isn’t especially keen on routines, although he does see the value in having one:

Having a routine is not something that comes natural to me, but it’s nonetheless important. I discipline myself to have this structure, because it helps me be creative in other parts of my life.

Jeff wrote about his routine on his blog, making the point that his routine works for him, and copying it wouldn’t be the answer to improving your writing:

The reality of routines is they’re usually so quirky and idiosyncratic that they really only work for the person practicing them.

And that’s the point: Find a system that helps you get the work done, and then use it.

Jeff’s routine is planned around his family, which means as his family situation changes, he’ll adjust his habits to fit in as well:

Every day is unique and different, but that’s what my routine has looked like lately. As our son gets older, I’m sure this will change.



Andy Orin: Have a quick lunch and walk fast

Andy Orin is an Editorial Assistant at Lifehacker, one of our favorite blogs around here.

In his Lifehacker interview about how he works, Andy shared two tips for saving time that I really liked. The first was to save time when getting around:

I walk fast. No patience for slow walkers, dawdlers, map gazers, and phone zombies.

The second was a counterintuitive one, as I’m a pretty big fan of lunch, but Andy saves time by skipping a big noontime meal:

I usually skip lunch in favor of a humble granola bar or something like that; a cup of coffee in an empty stomach and you can practically see around corners.

Neither of those might work for you, but the takeaway is to save time wherever you can. Read the newspaper on the train to work (or don’t read one at all!) instead of spending time on it before you leave the house; skip coffee time in the morning and get to work straight away; or even cut down on time spent cooking or going out to buy lunch: cook a big meal at the start of the week and have leftovers to save time.


michael hyatt

Michael Hyatt: Adjust your habits to fit into the rest of your day

Michael runs a great blog where he covers topics like business, productivity and leadership. I especially love all of his in-depth posts about using Evernote.

In this post about his morning routine, Michael mentions a few habits he has. One that jumped out at me was that he listens to audiobooks in the mornings, since he was struggling to find time to read physical books:

The problem I have is that it is difficult for me to sit still. I have a hard time finding a long enough stretch in the day to sit down and really read.

Several of us at Buffer listen to audiobooks on a regular basis, so this really struck a chord for me. I love the idea of working reading time into your daily routine:

I can listen to books while I’m working out. Honestly, there are days when I hate to stop running or exercising because I am so engrossed in my book.

What habits or routines do you do every day that help you to write more (or better)? Let us know in the comments.

Image credits: beX out loud, The Guardian, Sarah Wilson, Lightworkers Beyond the to-do list, Lifehacker, Bloomberg Businessweek

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Written by Belle Beth Cooper

Belle is the first Content Crafter at Buffer and co-founder of Exist. She writes about social media, startups, lifehacking and science.

  • Bop Design

    This. Is. Awesome! Thanks for sharing – Sarah’s advice is my favorite. I’ll usually work on several writing projects throughout the week. I admire people who can bang out one blog post in a sitting. – Caroline

    • Belle

      Glad you liked it! I definitely like having time in-between the writing and editing stages when I can.

  • Belle, why aren’t you on this list?

    • Belle

      haha not sure I could stand up against the quality of these bloggers, Momekh!

      • You most definitely should be! Your posts have been KILLIN’ it! I think it’s the best company blog out there 🙂

  • burgundydurango

    I picked up a tip a while back that’s really helped me to keep track of ideas as they come to me >> instead of jotting ideas down in Evernote (or something similar) I just use the WordPress mobile apps on my phone & tablet to create a new post and save it as a draft. That way I can keep all my inspirations in one organized place and I can see them every time I view the dashboard. 🙂

    • Belle

      That’s a great idea! Good way to have a space to come back to each idea and add to it over time, I bet.

  • Really useful post. “work on the same piece over time” and “Write every day” are the best of em . Thanks for sharing.

    • Belle

      Thanks, glad you found it useful!

    • Agree. I write nearly every day.

      And I write for myself. I mean, I like sharing what I’ve been learning, but the best part of blogging is it has given me an outlet for the thoughts that bounce around in my skull. Writing helps me process.

  • Love these tips.

    One thing that helps me is writing in the same place. I find if I try write somewhere other than my desk I generally am not as productive.

  • One of my top productivity tips for writing is that I stopped trying to “nail down” the process and just let it happen. I was working myself into a frenzy trying to document a strategy and workflow that it was merely a form of procrastination.

    I think this aligns with ‘writing for yourself’ – why bother setting up a writing strategy when there’s no need for one. Keep writing and you will naturally iterate yourself into your best strategy for writing. I don’t see any harm in writing ABOUT the process, I do it on my blog, but it’s definitely different from writing DOWN the process.

    So curious to hear what others think about this 🙂 Reply!

  • econwriter5

    Morning Pages every morning before leaving for work, and Evernote regardless of where I am.

  • I stop whatever I’m doing when ideas hit me and put them in my notes on my phone. Once those ideas are gone, they are hard, if at all possible to retrieve.

  • Beth you are awesome. I really love these tips. The one that stood out was Jeff’s. Work on finding a routine that works for you.

  • Primarily, eliminate distractions, preferably work where you can’t be contacted, or those around you know not to disturb. Turn off your phone, be unreachable, stop checking emails every five minutes. You can get more done in an hour with no distractions than most people do all day with constant interruption.

  • Insightful post, Beth. For me, I do my non-fiction writing in the morning and my fiction writing in the afternoon. For non-fiction I like to work at my desk with dual monitors that let me be creative and productive. For fiction, I like to get out of the house and go to Starbucks or Panera and write a chapter. The interplay and background noise of customers and staff make writing a story much more interesting. Many of the character interactions and dialogue in my books are based on situations that I see or hear in real life.

  • People think writing is creative, artistic work and therefore can’t be boxed into routines. But in fact routines help us write better. Even Stephen King has a schedule he describes as “clear-cut.” Creating the writing routine or habit strengthens some sort of “muscle” — maybe a physical one, or in our brain (care to research this, Belle?) — that makes writing so much easier.

    As for me, I schedule writing for when my brain seems most up to it: in the mornings. The rest of the day, if inspiration strikes, I fire up Evernote to capture my ideas. When I have small chunks of time, I may write a few sentences or paragraphs, again in Evernote. Have I mentioned I love Evernote?

  • Ali @ Pickevent

    I wish I could get into audiobooks, but so far, every time I’ve tried, I’ve ended up zoning out pretty quickly, even with books I love!

    I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but I tend to have a handful of posts part-written at any one time, and I work on them as and when I feel like it. Sometimes I’ll have a part-written post untouched for a week or two. Coming at it on a fresh day really helps!

  • stone_soup

    Andy Orin, not Orins.

  • MeganInTheRealWorld

    This is a great list! I’ve never been able to get into audiobooks, but I do read when I’m working out. I bring a book or my iPhone onto the elliptical and just walk for an hour while I’m reading something interesting. Hyatt is right – it’s definitely great motivation to keep the workout going!

  • I simply love the posts on Buffer, always something to pick up, thanks

  • It may not be my job or career but blogging helps me out in many ways like Leo. it helps me figure things out and get things done. It’s rough to me to force myself to write because it wasn’t something I enjoyed through school but now it has its benefits. Great quotes!

  • HHHH
  • Rita

    Yes thanks for sharing. Some great tips. Hardest thing for me is finding the ever changing balance between what I’m interested in and listening to what others are interested in. Anyone else get this?

  • Excellent post, thanks Belle